The Kenai Central and Nikiski girls soccer teams were getting pelted with hail, while Nikiski boys goalkeeper Sullivan Jackson was getting pelted by shots.
Tuesday afternoon had it all at Kenai Central High School. Jackson earned the shutout in net for Nikiski to preserve a 1-0 win for the boys, while the Kenai girls romped their way to a 6-0 victory under sunny and hailing skies.
In the boys game, the lone goal came early. Larry Cutsforth found the ball in the 10th minute on a laser-sharp corner kick from senior Christian Riddall and used a flick of his body to knock the ball past Kenai netminder Wren Norwood.
“We were missing some starters today, so it was nice to see the effort out of the boys today,” said Nikiski coach Jim Coburn.
After the early strike from Nikiski, the Kardinals turned up the pressure but saw several good shots miss just wide.
“I thought Kenai had a lot of chances they could’ve made good on,” Coburn said. “Our guys just fought hard.”
Nikiski bumped its season record to 2-2, while Kenai dropped its season opener.
After a first half saw a warning given by the referee to Kenai’s Austin McKee and Nikiski’s Nico Castro, the intensity continued to ramp up in the second half, leading to a yellow card shown to Castro for an aggressive play at midfield. Coburn also decided to sit Riddall — one of Nikiski’s top attackers — for the second half.
“We’re all competitive, and we get heated up and we protect our players and say things, but when it’s over with it’s just a game,” Coburn said. “I have a lot of respect for Kenai and their coaching staff, and sometimes we disagree on calls.”
Castro was also involved in a collision with Norwood late in the game, who was attempting to corral the ball, but no penalty was assessed, leading Kenai coach Joel Reemtsma to have a brief discussion with the officials after the final whistle.
Ultimately, Jackson proved to be flawless in goal for Nikiski, as he warded off shot after shot by the daunting Kenai front line. After the yellow card appearance, Kenai saw two shots sail just wide over the crossbar, and in the 64th minute, Kenai was awarded a penalty kick after an aggressive play by a Nikiski player in the box.
Max Dye stepped up for the shot but missed wide to the left. Coburn praised Jackson for holding up under the pressure.
“It was just effort,” Coburn said. “And a little bit of luck today.”
A late corner kick opportunity by Kenai saw Dye get a header on the ball but miss once again.
The girls game earlier in the day saw six different Kenai players score in the rout.
Heidi Perkins opened the scoring three minutes in with a well-placed corner kick that made its way by Nikiski goalie Brianna Vollertson. Another corner kick from Perkins was headed in by Lara Creighton in the 31st minute for a 2-0 lead. Perkins and Creighton proved to be dangerous on corner kicks throughout the day as a few other attempts nearly went in.
“Sometimes it’s nice not having that big, thumper leg in you, and you have to count on a bit more precision,” said Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen. “Heidi is our core in the middle and she’s so strong and powerful. She usually gets it in play and our tall forward (Creighton) presents her a nice target.”
Samantha Morse sent a powerful shot in in the final minute of the first half for a 3-0 halftime lead for Kenai. The Kards also got goals in the second half from Emily Halstead in the 60th minute, Mikaela Pitsch in the 66th and Cori Holmes in the 79th. Junior Alli Steinbeck earned the shutout in goal for Kenai.
It was about ten minutes into the second half of play when an ominous cloud positioned itself over Ed Hollier Field and quickly began dropping pea-sized hail pellets onto the players and fans. But the players were unfazed by the unusual spring weather that can’t seem to make up its mind.
Nikiski coach Troy Zimmerman said Tuesday’s match — which did not count in season records for seeding purposes in the Northern Lights Conference — provided a good opportunity to see where the Bulldogs need to improve.
“Even at halftime, I talked to the girls and asked what they see versus what I see,” Zimmerman said. “We’re in a huge deficit when it comes to taking shots, we’re giving up too many corners and we’ve just got to make sure our defense is stepping up and covering the spaces.”
The second match played between NLC teams is the one on record, so the Bulldogs will get another crack at the Kardinals at home on May 12.
Soldotna girls 4, Homer 1
The Stars started out their season with a victory in Homer, led by a hat trick from Miranda Wolfe. The game does not count in the Northern Lights Conference Southern Division standings. Homer fell to 1-3-1 overall.
Soldotna started the scoring 18 minutes into the game, when Miranda Wolfe found the net with help from Taryn McCubbins.
“Overall, with this being our first game, we came out a little flat,” SoHi coach Jimmy Love said. “It took us a little longer to get our soccer legs under us and it took us 20 minutes to find the net.
“We had opportunities before but we couldn’t finish.”
Just before halftime, Wolfe scored again, assisted by Makenna Rosin and Emmalee Johnson.
Then, 10 minutes into the second half, Wolfe finished her hat trick on assists from Johnson and Bailey Rosin.
Homer scored with 12 minutes left on an own goal, but Alyssa Wolfe then finished off the victory on an assist from Miranda Wolfe.
Maddie Kindred had the save in net, but Love said she was not busy, making one official save.
“It was nice to have a victory under out belt in the first game, but we still have things to work on,” Love said.
The Stars host Wasilla at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Soldotna boys 3, Homer 0
Bos Asimakopoulos had a pair of goals and an assist as the Stars improved to 2-0 with a victory in Homer. Homer dropped to 1-1. The game did not count in the NLC Southern Division standings.
Just before halftime, Asimakopoulos put the Stars up with a penalty kick. Then midway through the second half, Dylan Ackerman scored on an assist from Asimakopoulos. With 10 minutes left, Asimakopoulos finished off the scoring with an unassisted tally.
Bailey Jones had the shutout in net for the Stars. SoHi coach Darryl Byerley said his back four was solid all game.
“It was an evenly played match with an even division of shots,” Byerley said. “Some of ours went in and none of theirs did.”
The Stars host Eagle River on Friday at 6 p.m. and Wasilla on Saturday at 1 p.m.